The 113 will be given every opportunity to prove its sustainability

Such was the substance of the reply to our letter to Lothian Buses seeking reassurances about the 113 service. I quote:

It is not our intention to instigate the 113 on such a short term basis that it will not be given every opportunity to prove its sustainability as you fear based on previous experience with other operators.

We had written in to Lothian Buses broadly welcoming the new service and seeking clarification on a number of matters that had left us and other users a little bit confused. We were curious as to why it was necessary to create a new brand East Lothian Buses. We have learnt that:

The operating name of ELB is a trading name to reflect the operating area of this service and hopefully it will develop brand loyalty.

Fair enough. Some of us had thought that it was a wheeze to differentiate the new pricing structure. If it is simply a trading name, rather than a subsidiary, then it would appear that the costs of running this service are shared across the whole operation, which is reassuring. But then surely that would affect the fare structure? The rebranding won’t have been cost-free. In these straightened times many may be left wondering why it was necessary.

We also wanted to know how the fare structure squared with the fact that travel distances between the town centre and the new destinations (Pencaitland and Ormiston) are broadly similar to distances between any 2 extremes of the outer Edinburgh area or Mid Lothian. Here’s the reply:

Regarding the fare structure this is a wholly commercial decision and is intended to make the service viable allowing for the low passenger volumes beyond Tranent. While the fares are higher than on our main network they are still some 33% lower than those of the previous operator and in addition allow travellers to access our full network without additional cost which would in fact have been an additional cost beyond the present discount.

This seems to be a standard response which doesn’t really explain, but merely restates what we already know. The benefits of a single fare structures are very clear where these operate. It should be remembered that the benefits are extended not just to the residents of the rural communities served, but to those who wish to travel there to see friends or enjoy the countryside. Or indeed so that carers can reach their destination.

Finally, we were interested to know whether we could expect a further move into rural East Lothian. The rebranding appeared to some of us to be signalling such a move. We weren’t expecting a commercial company to give much away, but here’s what we got back:

Regarding further extension in to East Lothian at present we have no plans and as you will be aware other operators have also instigated additional services under contract to East Lothian Council as will always be the case under a deregulated market and they are also free to register any commercial services that they consider viable.

We’ll take that as a pretty firm “no”.

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Better rural buses, better rural transport options